summer in sagaponack (AKA the summer of gelato); or, how i got my family to eat fajitas

the classic question “what’s for dinner?” takes on an entirely new dimension when dealing with my family. my father won’t eat cooked fruit, spicy things, or things he can’t pronounce. my sister won’t eat things that are too sweet. my mother is in this phase where she won’t eat bread. i won’t eat things that swim, slither, have scales, or include anything my father might refer to as “pond life.” and that is just my immediate family. my grandfather can’t have salt. my cousin won’t eat fish, red meat, duck or vegetables. my parents’ closest friend won’t eat lamb, and my aunt, well, she doesn’t really eat at all.

talk about putting the “fun” back in dysfunctional.

this weekend marks the second annual kick-off of five weeks in the hamptons. it sounds impossibly swanky, and of course it is, but the real highlight is that all of us--family and friends--head out there every weekend (my mom moves out for the entire month) and on saturday nights, without fail, we cook. last year, this generally involved my mother letting me plan the menu and then regretting it later (as in the week we did paella and didn’t eat until midnight), while everyone else was so pleasantly drunk that they failed to notice; or me and my uncle horsing around in the kitchen (what he called imprisonment, since we barely saw any daylight) and being fed the leftover scraps of pasta and pizza we spent hours laboring over.

last year i was all about the breakfast foods. lots of muffins. some life-changing pancakes. several new additions to the ice cream repertoire. a few dinner successes, and i learned a lot about pasta.

this year, i decided i needed to relax and let things happen. not so many plans. not as many cookbooks. extra trips to the farmers markets for supplies and even, on occasion, doing some prep work ahead of time to avoid the pain of not being able to find a mixer or a spatula or a liquid measuring cup in someone else’s kitchen.

and so, the task of planning the first week’s menu fell to me. i pondered. i brainstormed. i made menus and discarded them. and finally, sitting by the pool on a sunny summer saturday, i found inspiration. what i really wanted, i mused aloud, was a fajita. i expected to be shot down immediately and was shocked when i saw some head-nodding happening. “we could do chicken fajitas,” i said, continuing my train of thought. “on the grill, with some veggies, and a big old pot of rice with some lime juice and cilantro.”

“we could make margaritas,” said our guest of the weekend. “or sangria.”
“daddy likes white sangria,” my mother offered, as i nearly died of shock.

“i could get some fresh corn,” i ventured even farther, “and some extra peppers, and onions, and potatoes. we could do a tortilla.”

“ron makes great margaritas,” said our guest.
“ron could make a great corn salad, i bet,” said my mom.

and there it was, in the space of a few moments, my shopping list. 3 farm stands, a specialty deli, a liquor store and a king kullen later, i had gotten my entire list and even found--oh joy--a yellow watermelon for sunday’s lunch. i came home and had just enough time to change and unpack the goods when the family began pouring back in the front door from their various saturday outings. the blender came out immediately, as did a bottle of petron. (in my family, when we drink tequila, we drink GOOD tequila) i started cooking a custard for some raspberry gelato. i set my mother to making some guacamole, and while the margaritas where whizzing away in the blender, ron began devising a corn salad. we cut up the chicken into bits and seasoned it with a taco seasoning mix. the grill was fired up, the custard cooled, we strained the raspberries in a french press when we couldn’t find a strainer.

by 8.30, we were sitting at the table, chowing down on fajita bliss. the corn was sweet, the chicken was moist, the rice had a hint of lime, the tortillas had been pan-warmed (along with my hand, which got in the way of the frying pan in question). even my sangria got high marks after i decided to omit the extra sugar and just soak some fresh fruit in the rioja, topping off the pitcher with a bottle of sparkling water.

the only downside--turns out, the freezer wasn’t cold enough to freeze the ice cream bowl. so what was for dessert? more on that later.

1 comment:

Noelani said...

Great work.